Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mizoram’s flawed literacy campaign

 By Paritosh Chakma

On 3 December 2010, Mizoram’s Education Minister Mr Lalsawta launched a special campaign called "Rapid Action Total Literacy Campaign" (RATLC) with the aim of achieving cent percent literacy in the state. However, the motives of the government are highly questionable as the RALTC seeks to achieve total literacy before the completion of the 2011 Census in March 2011 - that is, within three or four months!

In October 2006, Mizoram’s then Education Minister R. Lalthangliana informed the State Assembly that the state achieved 90.27% literacy, up from 88.8% recorded in 2001 census.In terms of literacy, Mizoram may be the second highest (next to Kerala). But Mizoram has its unique problems with the minority communities so much so that it can be safely stated that it is because of the high incidence of illiteracy among the minority communities that Mizoram cannot achieve the No. 1 rank. 

Just take the case of the Chakmas. With over 8% of the total population of Mizoram the Chakmas are the largest minority group. But only 45.3% Chakmas are literate, as per 2001 census figures which also confirmed that Chakmas are the “most illiterate” community in the state. This is against Mizos’ commendable 95.6% literacy rate. Although the literacy rate of the Brus (also known as Reangs) is not known (not recorded), it is popularly believed that the Brus are far behind to Chakmas in terms of development and education. This itself should be enough to indict the state government of Mizoram for not taking enough care of its minorities. 

The official data made public at the launching of RATLC in Lunglei show that there are 12,129 illiterate people in Lawngtlai district followed by 4,200 in Lunglei district and 2,845 in Mamit district. All these three districts (Lawngtlai, Lunglei and Mamit) have substantial population of minorities like Chakma, Bru, Lai, etc. The largest minority group, the Chakma, lives only in these three districts. This clearly proves that the minorities in particular the Chakmas and the Brus have been highly neglected by the state government in terms of education. Now, consider the repatriation, in the immediate future, of over 30,000 Mizoram Brus from the Tripura relief camps who have been denied development and education for the last 13 years. Hence, an army of illiterate minorities will be a bigger challenge which the Mizoram government must be prepared to meet in near future. 

The Mizoram government needs to really shift its focus on the minorities. But by seeking to make Mizoram 100% literate state in three or four months (notably before the completion of the Census 2011) through "Rapid Action Total Literacy Campaign", Mizoram government is sending a wrong signal to the whole world. This is nothing but taking a short cut method to improve its rating at the census and the goals are not genuine. But  education is not “fast food” and such a flawed policy is sure to boomerang in the long run. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

Mizoram told to act on starvation of Chakma tribals

On January 5, 2011, Supreme Court Commissioners in the right to food case directed the Mizoram government to immediately provide food and nutrition to over 4,000 Chakma tribal villagers who have been starving for weeks in Lawngtlai district.


OVER 4,000 Chakmas including men, women and children have reportedly been starving for several weeks in four villages – Parva I, Parva II, Parva III and Kamtuli under Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC) in Lawngtlai district of Mizoram. Mizoram Chakma Development Forum (MCDF), an NGO, which moved to the Commissioners of the Supreme Court (in the case: CWP 196/2001, PUCL v. UOI and others) after inaction by the state government of Mizoram, stated that no food grain under the Public Distribution System has been distributed to the poorest of the poor families since October last year. The authorities of CADC and the state government of Mizoram failed to take cognizance of the severe starvation although the matter was brought to their attention, MCDF stated.

Acting on the MCDF’s complaint the Commissioners of the Supreme Court in the right to food case on 5 January 2011 issued direction to Mizoram Chief Secretary,  Vanhela Pachuau to urgently supply food grain to the poor families from backlog of October 2010 and issue ration cards to all who don't have ration cards.

Further, in their order of January 5, 2011, Commissioner of the Supreme Court Dr N. C. Saxena and Special Commissioner Harsh Mander directed the Chief Secretary of Mizoram to “undertake a survey in all these villages and identify the families, who suffer from acute malnutrition, identify starvation & hunger related deaths (if any) and share information on the full coverage of all these residents of all food and livelihood schemes such as ICDS [Integrated Child Development Scheme], MDM [Mid Day Meal scheme], NREGA [National Rural Employment Act] and pensions in the district Lawngtlai. Please also send us a copy of instructions that would be issued in this direction and an action taken report within one month.”

MCDF has hailed this order as historic. “This is a historic order from the Supreme Court Food Commissioners as this goes beyond food security. MCDF is well aware that many Chakma families in Mizoram have been denied welfare schemes including PDS food grain, old age pension, maternity benefit scheme, nutrition etc. MCDF will monitor the implementation of the Supreme Court Commissioners’ order by the Mizoram government very closely.” – stated Mr Hemanta Larma, President of MCDF in a statement released to the media yesterday.

Larma further started that his organization complained to the Supreme Court Commissioners on 28 December 2010 after no action was taken by the Mizoram authorities to prevent possible starvation deaths in the affected villages if the situation deteriorated further.

These affected villages are located in far flung areas near to the Indo-Myanmar border and they do not have access to food grain even in the open market. On December, 23, 2010 MCDF had submitted petitions to the Deputy Commissioner, Lawngtlai district and the Chief Secretary, Mizoram government but the plea fell on deaf ear, the statement added.

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